Sunday, August 9, 2015

I didn't know Rev. Clementa Pinckney. I wish I had. He must have been a remarkable human being. He was a politician as well as a preacher. Those who actually knew him
seem greatly moved by his untimely demise. Those who  did not, not as much.
      It is clear that he was the main inspiration for the South Carolina Legislature to vote to remove the Confederate flag from in front of the Statehouse. He served there in the State Senate, and was apparently revered by all, from both sides of the aisle. Those in Congress who did not know him  did not ennoble themselves recently when they voted to keep the Confederate flag as a symbol in National parks and historic sites. They are attempting to lift back up what South Carolinians voted to take down. South Carolina for once is leading the way , but many of their Republican southern colleagues still haven't gotten the memo. 
     What is clear here is that when you can personalize the notion of oppression, it is much easier to oppose it. The importance of the message coming out of Charleston is that hate can't win,  grace is triumphant, and love , tolerance, and dialogue is the true answer for this country if we ever hope to return to being one nation, under God , and indivisibile, .
     . The tipping point in South Carolina was the tearful speech by State Rep. Jenny Hoyne, a Republican and descendant of Jefferson Davis ( Confederate President)  , who said it was time to take down this public symbol of hatred. It was a symbol of division,  not unity. 
     The lowering of that flag, which required a two thirds vote of the State Legislature , is a significant event. It only came about as a result of the actions of the victims of the church massacre in Charlestown, who responded to that tragedy with grace, charity , dignity and forgiveness, not hate and vituperation. The tragedy of the Emmanuel nine has given birth to a new spirit of cooperation and tolerance, in a way that hate never could.

     But, removal of the State flag is only symbolic. It is the hearts and minds of the supporters of that symbol that still need to be embraced by grace, hope, love and change. We saw how swiftly the walls of opposition to same sex marriage eroded when the debate was put in the context of being free to love who you love, and assuring equality for all under the law. In the same context, when the symbols of hate and repression are seen for what they are,  and not apologized for or papered over by justification of respect for history, real progress is possible. As Governor Nicky Haley said on signing the bill to lower the flag, reversing her original position on the matter, "
  ""We can continue to move forward in a country in a way that unifies people and that shows what real love looks like. That's what I want people to get out of this," she told Matt Lauer of NBC's today show.

"I don't want this to go away quickly. I want people to remember what today feels like and know that anything is possible with us."
My sentiments exactly, Governor.